Australian Minister Supports Fast-Track Visas for White South African Farmers
Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton recently came under fire for asserting that white farmers in South Africa “should be granted Australian emergency visas” when asked about the current debate over land redistribution in South Africa. Dutton claimed that property rights of white South African farmers are under siege and stated that they “deserve special protection” from a “civilized country”.
The governing party of South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), recently supported a constitutional amendment proposed by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, which will allow expropriation of land without compensation to landowners. Despite the end of apartheid 26 years ago, South Africa is still beset with tremendous problems of racial inequality with regards to land ownership, as the white minority maintains control over the majority of arable land in the country.
The South African government reacted immediately to Dutton’s comments with outrage, claiming that such threats are non-existent. A spokesman for South Africa’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement, stating that “there is no reason for any government anywhere in the world to suspect that any South African is in danger from their own democratically elected government.”
Dutton’s claim was also heavily criticized by media outlets, with many critics accusing him of playing politics with the sensitive issue of race. Last week, Dutton spoke out against his critics on a radio show, claiming that “some of the crazy lefties at the ABC, Guardian, the Huffington Post...draw mean cartoons about me.”
Nevertheless, other Australian politicians expressed support for endorsing a separate visa category. Even though Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop assured fellow Liberal Party members that creating a new visa category will be unnecessary, backbenchers in Parliament and Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott are supportive of Dutton’s initial proposal.
Supporters of Dutton justified their stance by pointing to the high rates of violence against white farmers in South Africa. Andrew Laming, a Liberal MP was quoted saying, “we need to get this system for a very small group of people that appear to be subject to very high levels of violence and threat.”
This year, more than seventy attacks and twenty-five murders of farmers were recorded in South Africa. According to the Transvaal Agricultural Union, which represents commercial farmers, most of the victims were tortured and raped before being murdered. Just this month, a farmer was found dead after being tortured with a power drill. A civil rights group AfriForum noted that “the term ‘farm murders’ is misleading and that the terms ‘farm terror’ and ‘farm tortures’ are more suitable.” Although such incidents were commonplace in South Africa, recent years saw a marked increase in farm murders.
Indeed, farm violence has been a highly political and racially charged issue in South Africa. Many view the growing violence as a symptom of the burgeoning anti-white hate populist movement.
The South African government stopped releasing the race of the victims in 2007, making it difficult to make the claim that it was mostly the whites who were targeted. However, multiple politicians in South Africa have been accused of inciting racial enmity and ethnic violence. A prominent ANC MP, Julius Malema, and even former President Jacob Zuma sang the song “Shoot the Farmer, Kill the Boer”, which the human rights group Genocide Watch deemed as “an incitement to commit genocide”. In addition, another MP was heard shouting, “bury them alive!” during a debate in parliament regarding the rise of farm attacks.
There are many in the South African expatriate community who welcomed the Australian government’s idea to facilitate immigration from South Africa to Australia by creating a new visa category. Reeva Cutting, a leader of a community group for expats in Perth, Australia referenced a will of general support for Dutton’s proposal within the community declaring that “if the South African Government is not going to do anything to start protecting these people then maybe it’s a good thing that other countries are starting to recognize the serious problem that it is.”